Mu Kanazaki’s dramatic goal in Kashima Antlers’s 2-1 win at Western Sydney Wanderers extended their remarkable turnaround to the penultimate round of the AFC Champions League group stage.
Toninho Cerezo’s outfit stretched their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions on Tuesday at Parramatta Stadium, moving them up to third in Group H and ensuring their qualification to the round of 16 remains in their own hands.
Revenge against reigning Asian champions Sydney was already on Antlers’ minds following their 3-1 loss at home in the opening round.
Their hopes of a result, and progress from the group, took a blow when Nikita Rukavytsya latched onto former Sanfrecce Hiroshima man Yojiro Takahagi’s ball over the top to finish clinically past Hitoshi Sogahata.
But Antlers emerged a different proposition after the break, and netted a deserved equaliser through Shoma Doi neat finish following a poorly-cleared corner.
Kanazaki would later turn in the winner from a cross in stoppage-time after being at the right place at the right time, just like the resurgent Japanese giants are in the group.
The three-hard fought points leaves them level in Group H with upcoming opponents FC Seoul, meaning a win in their direct encounter at Kashima Soccer Stadium in two weeks’ time will be enough to see them progress.